Southern California has the strictest VOC laws in the country. These laws have forced manufacturers to change the ingredients they use in paints and finishes, and even eliminate some – for example, oil paint and varnish. They have also done the same with solvents. For example, you can’t buy naphtha anymore, a solvent I find very useful for cleaning oil and wax from a surface without having to wait 10 or 15 minutes for it to evaporate, as you do with mineral spirits (paint thinner).
Manufacturers like to save on costs, and one way to do it is to shrink the number of SKUs or products they sell. So you may come across some of these VOC-compliant products even if you don’t live in California.
As it happens, I have grandchildren in Los Angeles, so I visit often. For fun, I don’t go to Disneyland; I tour the paint stores to see what has changed. On a recent trip I discovered this can of paint thinner. Notice the listed contents on the back of the can: Acetone, Methyl Acetate and Chlorobenzotrifluorides – no petroleum distillates.
I’m not asking you to become a chemist, but you must know that acetone is a very strong solvent, and it is the primary ingredient in this “paint thinner.” If you were to wipe most finishes, paints and many plastics with either acetone or this product, you would damage the surface and maybe even remove the coating entirely.
The company provides some hints on the front label: “extra strength,” “fast thinner,” “strong cleaner.” But these are qualities an unsuspecting consumer might think are good, and the product is still labeled “paint thinner.” So if you’re not paying close attention, you might cause some damage you wish you hadn’t. Be warned.